In 2011, 27 people were killed in California in wrong-way crashes. In 2012, almost double the number of fatalities occurred and 53 motorists were left dead after drivers traveled in the wrong direction. KCRA also reports another 44 fatalities in wrong-way wrecks in California in 2013.
Wrong-way crashes are usually head-on collisions because a driver who is going in the opposite direction of traffic is likely to directly strike a car that is driving with traffic.
Wrong-way crashes are also much more likely to be fatal than other collisions. National Transportation Safety Board conducted a review of data available on wrong-way crashes and found these types of accidents had a fatality rate anywhere from 12 to 27 times greater than the death rate in crashes which were not head-on accidents caused by people going in the wrong direction.
Drivers need to know causes of head on collisions, especially as one of the leading reasons for these accidents is drunk driving. With the holiday season approaching and impaired driving a common problem around Thanksgiving and New Years, now is the time to focus on safe behind-the-wheel behaviors to minimize accident and death risks.
Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents
There are myriad potential causes of wrong-way accidents, and risk factors vary among different age groups. For young people, alcohol is a big reason why drivers go in the wrong direction and cause head-on accidents. A total of 60 percent of all wrong-way collisions involve alcohol use by the motorist who is traveling in the wrong direction. However, among drivers age 20 to 39, 65 percent who went the wrong way had a BAC of .08 percent or greater at the time of their accident.
For seniors, on the other hand, confusion due to age or prescription drug use may be factors in causing wrong-way accidents, but alcohol isn't usually involved. Young people ages 20 to 50 have the highest rates of wrong-way accidents, but seniors over 70 are also over-represented in causing collisions due to going the wrong direction. Once a driver has reached the ages of 70 to 79, he's 2.5 times as likely as he was in his 60's to cause a wrong-way accident. A driver aged 80 and older is actually 30 times as likely to cause a wrong-way crash.
Many seniors simply experience natural declines of aging, which can affect their vision, mental acuity, and reflexes. These seniors may enter highways going in the wrong direction without realizing it and cause deadly high-speed head-on collisions. Prescription drug use can sometimes be a factor, as 76 percent of seniors who are 60 and older use at least two prescription medications on a monthly basis.
Motorists of any age need to be aware of top causes of wrong-way driving, and must pay careful attention when entering and exiting highways and when passing on divided two-lane roads where traffic travels in opposite directions. If every motorist does his part to avoid wrong-way collisions this holiday season and beyond, hopefully death rates can decline in California and throughout the United States.